The NFRN, the trade body representing the interests of 15,000 independent retailers, expressed delight at plans to extend the 5p plastic bag levy to smaller shops, with its National President Linda Sood saying this shows that government has listened to independent retailers’ concerns.

Since the charge was first imposed in England in October 2015 the NFRN has campaigned against the exemption, saying it would confuse customers and lessen the impact on the environment that an all inclusive levy would have had.

Speaking today (Wednesday January 10), Mrs Sood said: “Our members have always been baffled by the fact that they were excluded from the requirements in England, although their retail colleagues in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been able to charge. Because of their desire to be environmentally friendly and to help support local charities, many of them have chosen to implement the charge, with the proceeds donated to local good causes.

“Over the past few years we have lobbied government ministers, including then deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, then minister for water, forestry, rural affairs and resource management, Dan Rogerson, former environment minister Rory Stewart and, more recently, Thérèse Coffey, asking them to think again. Most have been supportive and have backed a voluntary code we drafted to help retailers make clear to their customers when they are being charged, and where the proceeds are being donated.”

Mrs Sood continued: “There is no denying the fact that the 5p charge has made a huge difference to plastic bag usage, with nine billion fewer bags used and more than £66 million given by supermarkets to good causes. But the NFRN has consistently argued that while this is impressive, these figures could have been so much higher had independent retailers been included from the start.

“However, we are delighted that the government has listened to our calls and that Theresa May is set to announce that the legislation is to be extended to stores of all sizes. We look forward to playing an active part in the consultation process and working with government to ensure a smooth transition, although we will continue to press for reduced reporting requirements for businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

“Extending the levy is good news as it will bring an end to customer confusion while helping NFRN members cut costs, play their part in reducing waste and raising money for local worthy charities.”

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